Vienna is the capital of Austria and is located in the province of Lower Austria. Lower Austria borders Germany (Deutschland) and Czech Republic. Along the province's southern border, Burgenland borders Hungary. At various times in its history, Vienna was occupied by the Romans, Germans, and Turks. Its current population includes Slovenians in Carinthia, Croatians in Burgenland, Czech and Hungarian minorities in Vienna.
At the beginning of the Habsburg dynasty, the Austrian empire ran as far north as the Netherlands, as far south as Trieste Italy, included Bohemia and Moravia of modern-day Czech Republic, and went as far east Tyrol along the Suisse border. The population primarily speaks its own dialect of German and is 80% Roman Catholic. Approximately 50% of its GDP is derived from tourism.
As a crossroads capital, Vienna was defined by its city fortress. On one side was the Danube River, and on the other three sides ran the walls. The Danube in Vienna is not very wide, and the walls not very effective. This was evidenced by the Turkish occupation in the 17th century, and subsequent Jan Sobieski's Polish Catholic liberation. Late in the 19th century, the city walls came down and was replaced by the Ringstrasse ('the ring')
The Ring encompasses Burgtheater, Hofburg, and Stephansdom. The orginal Burgtheater was replaced in 1888 by an Italian Renaissance looking building. In 1945, a bomb left only the grand staircase intact. The theater has been subsequently rebuilt.
Vienna houses the most luxurious shopping in Europe. Kartnerstrasse is the main tourist shopping area. It runs between Karlsplatz and Stephansplatz. Clothes, chocolate and jewelry can all be bought for a price. Locals head down Mariahilfer Strasse towards the second and ninth districts. On the U-bahn take the orange line [U3] to Neubaug.
Hofburg was the seat of the Habsburg family for their seven century rule over the Austrian Empire. Alte Burg, Neue Burg, Albertina, and Augustinerkirche are the notable structures here. They were the former seats of government (the burgs), the palace, and the church. On the northern end of the complex are the Spanish Riding School (Spanische Reitschule) and Michaelerplatz. Heldenplatz, Josefsplatz, and Volksgarten are the open spaces that lend majesty to the former royal complex.
At the heart of the First District is Stephansplatz. Stephansdom was built in the 13th century in the late Gothic style. It was destroyed during World War II, and rebuilt. It was very difficult to photograph Stephansplatz; the Dom is quite dirty as well.
Directly across from the Hofburg is Maria Theresien Platz and Rathaus Park. Maria Theresien Platz is surrounded by the Ring on one side and on three sides by museums: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Naturhistorisches, and Museums Quartier.
Neues Rathaus is an example of neo-gothic architecture. Built in the late 19th century, the first floor is a reception hall, and the cellar is occupied by a restaurant. Down the street is Vienna University. Founded in the 14th century, it is Central Europe's third oldest university behind Prague and Cracow.
Mariahilfer Strasse is the most prominant street in Vienna. It is runs through the ring, and is surrounded by shopping and cultural attractions. North of Mariahilferstrasse and along The Ring are the Neues Rathaus, the Burgtheater, the University and across the street from it is Cafe Landtmann. Reportedly, the cafe was one of Sigmund Freud's favorite cafes. It still serves high-end meals today.
North along the Ring and along Maria Theresien Strasse is Roosevelt Park and Votivkirche. An example of neo-gothic architecture, Votivkirche is undergoing renovation. Like Stephansdom, it is need of a deep cleaning.
Southwest of the Ring is Belvedere Palace and Gardens. Prinz Eugene purchased the land after driving the Turks from Vienna. Arriving to Vienna penniless, after the conflict, the Prince built a financial empire and was considered the richest man in Vienna.
Built in the early 18th century, Belvedere has influences from Versailles and Blenheim in Oxfordshire. Prinz Eugene was very familar with the French palace. Blenheim is the home to Prinz Eugene's friend the Duke of Marlborough.
South of the ring are Musikverein, Staatsoper, Theater an der Wien. Karlsplatz is surrounded by the Lothringer Strasse, Technische Universitat and Karlskirche.